Gerald Murnane: The Plains


The latest addition to my website is Gerald Murnane‘s The Plains. This a superb novel from Murnane, best described as a fable, about the huge central area of Australia called The Plains, which seems to be run by some very rich and powerful barons who seem to be combination of Texan cattle barons and European feudal lords. What distinguishes them from the cattle barons is that their main interests seem to be intellectual pursuits. The story is narrated by a filmmaker who wants to do what no-one else seems to have done – make a film which is set in the Plains. To do so, he has to wait in the bar where there are other supplicants, waiting to sell their products – mainly coats of arms and religion – to the barons, who are on one of their regular visits to town, where they drink and eat and talk and listen to people like our narrator. We learn something of the history of this group and their intellectual pursuits. Our narrator does manage to persuade one of the barons to take him on (as Director of Film Projects) and spends the next ten years in this remote palace with a sumptuous library, struggling with the issue that Murnane seems to have struggled with, namely, how can you capture a point of view of someone else on film or elsewhere, as we all look at things differently. What makes this book is the often almost otherworldly view of these strange barons and their arcane intellectual pursuits and how they are seen by an outsider. The book has been hailed as an Australian classic and it is easy to see why, as it is a thoroughly original work.

Leave a comment